back to article UK emergency services take DIY approach amid 12-year wait for comms upgrade

The UK's police, fire, and ambulance services are scrambling for solutions amid an uncertain wait for the Emergency Services Network (ESN) following Motorola's departure from a £400 million ($498 million) contract. Facing a 12-year delay with no delivery date in sight for the UK emergency services' voice and data network, …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Too Big?

    There's a common problem with public sector contracts and projects. It's not really that they are too big as such, it's that they are bigger than initially thought and too big for the people managing them.

    This is typical of this type of project. Somebody came up with the idea and didn't spend enough time scoping the project. 12 years on and virtually no real progress? Thats the ultimate expression of project creep.

    I've been involved in projects where decisions are taken during development that something previously considered in scope is now ruled out of scope (usually because it's too difficult), other things that were out of scope are now in scope (either because they should have been in scope all along, or because the organisation has changed during the project) and where there are continual arguments about what the scope actually is. The end result being that the project goes nowhere because people are still arguing about the scope after the planned finish date for the project has already passed.

    By now somebody should have realised that it's almost pointless to continue. Cut your losses, kill the project and start again. Only this time scope it right in the first place. Sometimes when you've actually completed scoping the project you realise it's not even viable. That's fine. All you need to do is go back and redefine what the project is.

    1. cipnt

      Re: Too Big?

      Public money well spent.

      They paid £20k for the domain name

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Too Big?

      ... they are bigger than initially thought and too big for the people managing them

      Isn't that usually the case with many of the big government project failures ?

      I don't want to criticise those who are in those jobs and trying to do the job properly, but I would suggest that perhaps we don't have the right quantity of the right people in the right places at the right time. And we can point the finger firmly at one department for blame - the treasury. Each year, without consideration fo what any department actually needs to spend, it specifies what they are allowed to pay - the pay remit guidance. Many groups (MPs are one) have a supposedly independent pay review body - but the bulk of the civil service does not, we just get these pay remit guidances each year that impose a real terms cut in pay. Realistically, if you are good at what you do, you need to have a reason other than pay to come to the civil service to do it as you can almost certainly get a better package (often very much better) elsewhere.

      So management in each department goes through the annual charade of rearranging the deck chairs and "consulting" with the unions - but entering the negotiations with a pre-determined amount they are allowed to pay regardless of need. From the inside (hence posting as AC), I can tell you that morale is low, and many projects suffer due to lack of having the right quantity of the right people to run them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Too Big?

        Isn't that usually the case with many of the big government project failures ?

        Don't worry, the same happens with private sector big projects...

        Usually for the same reasons:

        The people deciding the scope of the project have no ideas on the processes that are currently in place, of what is needed, and of what is feasible using the current technologies and tools.

        Then you get "project managers" that only know how to create reporting slides.

        And at the end the people doing the work are blamed for the failure.

        1. James Anderson

          Re: Too Big?

          Except private sector projects never fail. The management just redefines “success”.

          1. Sam not the Viking Silver badge

            Re: Too Big?

            The five stages of a project:



            Search for the guilty

            Punishment of the innocent

            Praise and honours for the non-participants

            1. Herring`

              Re: Too Big?

              The condensed stages:

              1. Sack everyone who says it won't work

              2. Sack everyone who said it would work

            2. EricB123 Silver badge

              Re: Too Big?

              Unfortunately you left out the most important last step:

              "Definition of the Requirements"

        2. LybsterRoy Silver badge

          Re: Too Big?

          I'm old enough to remember when the "big is beautiful" mantra started. I'm still waiting for the "big is unmanageable" one to appear.

    3. ColinPa

      Re: Too Big?

      Someone said that he job was "The devil's advocate", and it was his job to explain/demonstrate why things will not work. He explained one project which relied on having a mobile signal to work. He took a holiday in the wilds of Scotland, and came back reporting that he only got a signal 50% of the time, and nothing up in the mountains. They changed the project as a result of this and some some parts of the project they used satellite phones. He would set up his test environments in a tough area (eg weak or no signal), rather than the middle of a city which had good coverage. His philosophy was "find the bad news as early as possible - it gives you more time to fix it (and factor into the price)".

      1. ITMA Silver badge

        Re: Too Big?

        This is an approach I use often which I think of as "tiptoeing through the minefield".

        You stand far greater chance of making it out the other side with all your bits and appendages intact if you spend some time proactively trying to work out where the mines are first.

        All too often the approach is "let's steam ahead and deal with any problems as we hit them".... BANG!!! Oops that's your legs gone. Not going to make good progress now are you?

    4. steviebuk Silver badge

      Re: Too Big?

      Bit like the NHS and Fujitsu contract many moons ago. Ignoring Fujitsu are now officially cunts what with the Post Office scandal. But they had a big project near us with the NHS. In ended up tanking with Fujitsu pulling out if I remember right. One of the main reasons was the NHS management were awful. Apparently after everything was "scoped" each week they request more and more and more and more but didn't want to pay. Eventually Fujitsu had had enough and decided to pull out. That's what I was told by someone who was in the meetings anyway, how accurate it was I don't know.

    5. Just an old bloke

      Re: Too Big?

      Speaking to people I know who have/are worked on government projects is that they generally start well and make significant progress until someone up top decides it is vital that an overview is conducted by external consultants, one of the usuals -Deloitte’s, Crapita et al. At this point the project is doomed to a long and lingering death. The consultants hidden agenda is to find areas of concern, usually false, where they can slip in a junior consultant to do some consulting which in turn, brings in more of their chums. It’s like a corporate cancer. And it’s not often that the consultants pick up any of the blame, they only cart off millions in fees leaving the project dead in the water. And no one ever points to the elephant in the room. It stinks.

  2. localzuk

    Record incompetence

    12 years and they're still not ready with ESN.

    What on Earth is the government playing at? Why is it taking them so long to sort out what is effectively a private phone network, using nearly all existing masts, with push to talk capabilities!?

    1. jollyboyspecial

      Re: Record incompetence

      The government? Unfortunately the government seldom get involved unless embarrassing enough questions are asked in the house. You can argue that relevant ministers should be riding the relevent civil servants backs, but that's (unfortunately) not how it works.

      No doubt the relevant civil servants in charge of this have changed roles once a year since this all started maybe these projects would actually work better if it wasn't for civil service musical chairs.

      1. john.w

        Re: Record incompetence

        "Ride a civil servant" get removed for bullying.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Record incompetence

      It's not a phone network - Airwave offers far more than just point to point communications.

      The ESN should always have been a data only product to start, to work alongside TETRA for voice (and low bandwidth data).

      Then you can add voice support over the data until you get to the point where you don't need AW any more.

      1. localzuk

        Re: Record incompetence

        It is a phone network - pedantry over minutiae is what gets governments into 12 year overrunning projects. It runs via the existing 4G transmitters. It is not Airwave or Tetra.

        1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          Hint : if you cannot readily agree on what the thing is, it seems pretty obvious that a bunch of civil servants are not going to be particularly efficient in defining what the upgrade should be.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Record incompetence

          The thing the ESN is trying to be isn't a phone network - because what it's replacing isn't a phone network.

          1. localzuk

            Re: Record incompetence

            Except, it specifically is a phone network. It is running on phone masts, with phone technology. It has technology on top to turn it into other forms of communication tools, but it is still, at its core, a phone network.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Record incompetence

              No - at it's core ESN is a data network - and it's not trying to be a phone network, irrespective of other uses of the technology behind it.

              The services don't need a phone network, or they would just use phones - there are a number of reasons they use a TETRA network instead of phones.

      2. john.w

        Re: Record incompetence

        Airwave is a point to point radio and a cellular radio and can use a vehicle based terminal as a repeater. The replacement only does one of these or rather will eventually, maybe. It also operates at a much lower frequency than 4G (hence poor data rates) but has much better coverage using fewer masts.

    3. Lars Silver badge

      Re: Record incompetence


      Have a look and a listen to the government ministers, and ask no more.

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: Record incompetence

        Crème de la Crème of the talent[less].

        Take the shining example the Home Secretary. The only reason she's there is to prop-up the support of the right wing of the party for the PM.

        Unfortunately for us plebs, that's just exhibit 1 of a long list. Johnson purged the moderates and those with a modicum of talent when he came in

        1. John Sager

          Re: Record incompetence

          Do you really think that the shitshow that is the Labour front bench would be any better? The operative word is 'politician' not 'Conservative' or 'Labour'.

          1. YetAnotherLocksmith Silver badge

            Re: Record incompetence

            Even if the SNP bus cost £1 million a year, it would take a thousand years to reach a billion, and hence 37,000 years to reach the levels of corruption seen by the tory government during covid alone!

            They're not nearly "all the same".

            Starmer though... Don't know what's wrong with that man. Just find some convictions!

    4. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: Record incompetence

      How many politicians are still in their original positions after 12 years? And did the successor pick up the ball and run? Or did they do what they wanted ( as all politicians do these days, instead of what the constituency wants? ) and say it was a mess before I started, and I have no clue how to move forward? And pass it on to the next seat holder?

      Hot potato anyone?? Musical Chairs???

      Where is the totally clueless icon when we need one?? GET with it

      1. Claverhouse Silver badge

        Re: Record incompetence

        Where is the totally clueless icon when we need one?? GET with it

        I've really seen enough pictures of Boris's cheery inane grin to last me forever.

    5. Commswonk

      Re: Record incompetence

      What on Earth is the government playing at? Why is it taking them so long to sort out what is effectively a private phone network, using nearly all existing masts, with push to talk capabilities!?

      To answer your question... probably just twiddling its collective thumbs, for the very simple reason that "sorting it out" (i.e. making it work) is the responsibility of EE and (IIRC) Samsung; it is neither the government's nor the civil service's job to produce a working system.

      I am not trying to say that the government is totally free of blame for the fiasco; opting for a system that worked on paper but that had never been tested as a practical reality was hardly the most sensible of decisions.

      And when you say "existing masts" which masts do you mean? EE's or Airwave's? If the former you should note that numerous commentards point out that their 4G coverage is poor or non existent; if the latter, those masts belong to... Motorola. One way or another the "existing masts" provide at best a partial solution to the coverage requirements. In any event coverage is relatively easy to sort out, if not necessarily cheap. But what is the point of perfect coverage if the underlying system doesn't work?

      1. localzuk

        Re: Record incompetence

        The government are the contract holders. As in, they signed a contract for the implementation of this system. It is 100% on them to ensure the system is provided in a sensible timescale. The fact that government seems to consistently sign contracts that fail miserably to set proper deadlines and non-performance clauses is again, their own fault.

        And EE's - it doesn't take 12 years to build new masts to fill the gaps. The entire 3g roll-out took less time than that.

        1. Cynical user

          Re: Record incompetence

          The 3G rollout was largely adding new radio kit & antenna swaps onto existing sites. EE's rural 4G rollout is a lot more than that - between SRN, S4GI & ESN rollouts, it's building a raft of new sites in remote areas where there's previously been no coverage. Totally different scale, and you're trying to compare apples with oranges.

          Commecial customers (you & I) are massively benefitting from a 4G rollout that - as I understand - is meeting all the contractual obligations of ESN.

    6. EricB123 Silver badge

      Re: Record incompetence

      "12 years and they're still not ready with ESN."

      Are you in a hurry?

    7. Rattus

      Re: Record incompetence

      "Why is it taking them so long to sort out what is effectively a private phone network, using nearly all existing masts, with push to talk capabilities"


      (1) They want Push to Talk, with signal being delivered to multiple people at the same time and with next to no latency (and the ability to re-enforce that coverage with their own mobile base stations)

      What that sounds like to me is PMR not mobile phone.

      (2) Of cause they also want the phone network bit of 100% coverage for people with a simple handset (with PTT & low latency to everyone else in the country) and high speed data links

      oh and add in that this will need guaranteed bandwidth allocated just for this user group meaning that the network must be either built from scratch or have that bandwidth taken from existing subscribers (and we all know how much money got spent auctioning off spectrum allocation)

      (3) Finally what they originally asked for was two tin cans and a bit of string....

    8. YetAnotherLocksmith Silver badge

      Re: Record incompetence

      Broken for 12 years? I expect they'll blame Labour for that, then!

  3. abend0c4 Silver badge

    Services in other countries were now able to move ahead ... faster

    UK government's most likely response these days: "have we considered sabotage?".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Services in other countries were now able to move ahead ... faster

      always find it strange that we don't seem to inquire what other countries do, what do the Germans, French, Spanish et al do. Is it little Englander syndrome?

      1. Martin Gregorie

        Re: Services in other countries were now able to move ahead ... faster

        That's been the case as long as I can remember: the attitude among the Great And Good in the UK always seems to have been "We know what we're doing so we'll ignore what anybody else might know".

        Take monetary decimalization:

        - The Canadians went decimal first and the results weren't good, but Australia and NZ had observers there and noted the mistakes.

        - Australia went next, avoided all the Canadian mistakes, but made a few of their own. NZ had observers there and noted a few new mistakes.

        New Zealand went third, and had a largely trouble-free conversion to decimal currency.

        UK? Didn't have any observers at any of the previous three monetary decimal conversions, but nonetheless not only repeated all the cock-ups made by the previous three, but invented a truckload more, causing such a mess that any further rationalization has been impossible like, for instance, the largely mishandled and never completed switch to metric weights and measures.

        1. DJO Silver badge

          Re: Services in other countries were now able to move ahead ... faster

          Actually the UK started decimalisation of the currency a lot earlier than most people realize, 1849 actually when a coin with the legend "One Florin : One Tenth of a Pound" was struck but there was lukewarm support for an 1855 motion in the Commons applauding the issuance of the florin and seeking further decimal coins so the idea languished for a century.

          To be honest I don't recall problems in 1971 but I was just a kid so I suspect my memory of then is not perfect also at that tender age my awareness of problems in big people land was minimal.

      2. Howard Sway Silver badge

        Re: Services in other countries were now able to move ahead ... faster

        They did ask the Germans, but they thought that the Brits had decided against wanting their system when they said "nein, nein, nein!".

      3. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

        Re: Services in other countries were now able to move ahead ... faster

        The main issue with technologies in UK is that you have to ensure it works when driving on the wrong side of the road.

        This is why you can't use systems designed for Continental countries and have to create specific ones, and constantly remind the developers of UK's specifics.

        1. James Anderson

          Re: Services in other countries were now able to move ahead ... faster

          All the best countries drive on the “proper” side of the road. Japan Malaysia Singapore etc.etc.

        2. OculusMentis

          Re: Services in other countries were now able to move ahead ... faster

          Indeed! Try operating a Tesla multifunction screen with your left hand whilst driving…

          1. YetAnotherLocksmith Silver badge

            Re: Services in other countries were now able to move ahead ... faster

            I thought Elno promised they'd be driving themselves by... 2019.

          2. Alumoi Silver badge

            Re: Services in other countries were now able to move ahead ... faster

            Is Tesla they only car manufacturer in the world?

    2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: Services in other countries were now able to move ahead ... faster

      They should look in the mirror where they will find the culprits red-handed

  4. goodjudge

    Reasons for delay?

    Does anyone know if some of the hold-ups are due to inter-service rivalry or competing requests? The late Lewis Page of this parish wrote a book on defence procurement which included how the first of these was a big factor in project over-runs and bloat. Have the police tried to pull rank over the fire service, or do the brigade have genuine needs or "ooh! shiny!" want lists that would hinder the ambulance service?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Reasons for delay?

      Whilst each service have their own needs they aren't contradictory - it shouldn't be hard:

      - Continue with AW and provide a data only ESN

      - Prove that the data connection is good

      - Enable voice over data (much harder than people give it credit for)

      - Enable emergency location / fall detection / summon capabilities

      - Prove the above

      - Start to phase TETRA out of the least critical parts of the services initially

      - Prove that the voice connection (both transmission and hardware) is sufficiently reliable

      - Phase out TETRA everywhere you can, leaving the nice voice only, high reliability, long range, repeat capable TETRA voice network for the remote areas of the country - and maybe carry local TETRA cells in fire engines / ambulances to deal with not-spots in buildings etc (ESN backhaul, rather than the current TETRA repeater style)

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Reasons for delay?

        Whats wrong with their current process?

        - Go to operator of existing system.

        - Contract them to build next system

        - When it's late pay them more for continued support for the old system

        - Repeat

      2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: Reasons for delay?

        That's a far too sensible approach.

        The problem being that type of thinking is surgically excised in the people taking decisions.

        Just this week, PHB says get something I'm working on completed by the next day. Knowing the complexity (and a PHB who thinks he does) plus the need for input from a colleague who's been tasked with an even more important and urgent task, I say it is very unlikely.

        Guess what... Next week it will be, as PHB's PHB dumped yet more work on the colleague I need to consult

    2. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: Reasons for delay?

      Lewis' book is great on this. There is another about this kind of thing is The Blunders of Our Governments by Anthony King and Ivor Crewe. This book in particular goes into the spectacular cockups by our successive governments, including poll tax, the Passport Office mess, the Child Support Agency, and on and on and on. There are some excellent case studies in it.

    3. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: Reasons for delay?

      With defence work, you have friction between military and civilian factions. Add the contractor in as the joker in the pack and shake it all about.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Two systems cannot become one

    A few people have suggested running Airwave and ESN (network + handsets) together and gradually transition over to ESN.

    Unfortunately, two handsets for an emergency services worker is probably one too many. A combination handset would be prohibitively expensive and possibly difficult to implement from a user interface point of view ie how to switch seamlessly between Airwave & ESN functionality. There is also the question of battery life connecting to two networks.

    Integration with emergency services control rooms would also require some effort as most are only setup for Airwave.

    From a personal perspective, having worked on integrating ESN into a previous company's product, the main reason for the delay was the quality, or lack thereof, of the Motorola ESN implementation (Kodiak). It was supplied as SAAS ie something 'in the cloud', and was the most flaky, unreliable and inconsistent product I have *ever* used in 30 years of professional development. We were also provided (Android) handset software for testing/integration which was a bit more reliable but still beta quality.

    ESN is based on an international standard which layers functionality over an existing 4G network. Motorola's Kodiak is one implementation but there are others by Ericsson et al. Unfortunately, each implementation has its own quirks (think html rendering) such that changing implementations would require a huge amount of testing and bug fixing.

    Finally, ESN relies on 4G, so no 4G, no ESN. I believe Airwave has very good coverage but still has a lot of dead spots. Just think about your own mobile phone dead spots and wonder what an emergency services worker would do.

    1. James Balderstone

      Re: Two systems cannot become one

      There was always going to be a period of network interworking between the ESN network and Airwave, it'd be impossible to do a big bang switch, so it was always planned for.

      Having worked on the control room side of things the main issues always seemed with Motorola and their implementation of Kodiak - so many changed specs, changes in operations and the like, and it always seemed to take far too long to get a response back.

      The 4g network being used by ESN had been greatly improved by EE over the last few years - they were onto a winner, effectively getting paid by the government to improve their network coverage!

      1. Franco

        Re: Two systems cannot become one

        It was always too big a project to ever be done in the given timescale though. Even just improving contention in areas like London was hard enough, without factoring in vast tracts of Wales, Northern England and the Highlands and Islands of Scotland that had at best patchy 2G service, never mind 3G or 4G.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Two systems cannot become one

      > Finally, ESN relies on 4G, so no 4G, no ESN

      That's good. By the time the ESN is ready to roll out, all the networks will be on standalone 5G anyway!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Two systems cannot become one

      I wasn't directly involved but I was selling mobile telecoms solutions, including PTT, at the time and talked to friends on the edges of Airwave early in the project.

      It seemed completely obvious to me that:

      1) The government had not employed good enough technical people in the specification with Moto.

      2) The government had not employed good enough contracts people in the contract negotiation with Moto.

      3) Kodiak was really not up to the job (my personal views on it were stronger than that but I will stop there).

      Someone had decided that "4G" as the sexy new technology of the time, was going to be the basis for the new ESN. Without doing enough technical analysis (particularly related to coverage, but also the standardisation process and resulting interoperability issues).

      And Moto had ended up with a perfect contract which meant they couldn't lose and were incentivised to not make progress. And still are.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Two systems cannot become one

      "I believe Airwave has very good coverage but still has a lot of dead spots."

      Not nearly as many as people seem to think, and it has the ability to have those covered by a conveniently parked vehicle.

      High speed data is probably a "vehicle first" requirement anyway, so carrying handsets not an issue for quite a while.

      I'd also expect that having the existing radio strapped to the shoulder (as now), with a phone in a pocket for data duties is not as significant an issue as you might suspect.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Two systems cannot become one

        "I'd also expect that having the existing radio strapped to the shoulder (as now), with a phone in a pocket for data duties is not as significant an issue as you might suspect."

        If you watch any of those motorway cops type shows, they all seem to have two handsets, one strapped to each shoulder. I've always assumed it was radio + mobile phone, so carrying two devices seems to be SOP these days anyway.

    5. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

      Re: Two systems cannot become one

      It was supposed to work in the "Cloud"?

      This is why there was so much support for that solution in UK then, it would have been extremely reliable and easy to deploy giving the prevalent weather conditions...

  6. dharmOS

    Dodgy contracting

    Maybe the delays are due to the UK government stipulating in the contract that the device had to be manufactured in the UK, using UK sourced semiconductors and the case made of adamantium, vibranium and unobtainium.


  7. Dacarlo


    A little over £1B per annum is not staggering when it comes to government projects. That's money lost down the back of the sofa or given away to their mates in PPE scams.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Staggering?

      Put that “little over £1B pa” in to the context of maintaining a national mobile network and so compare it with what the commercial operators spend each year maintaining their networks and it isn’t particularly staggering. The issue is that we’ve become accustomed to the economies of shared infrastructure, so the costs get spread across millions of customers rather than being incurred by a single customer.

  8. TimMaher Silver badge

    Dr Who

    I preferred the simpler times when you could just blow a whistle (bang your truncheon on the sidewalk for left pondians). The really advanced stuff was a blue police phone box or a radio in your Ford Zephyr.

    “Evenin’ all.”

  9. James Anderson

    Evolution not Revolution.

    The safest quickest way to achieve an up to date modern functioning system is to enhance and expand an existing system one step at a time.

    However government (and many many private organisations) prefer the Big Bang then freeze approach. These mega projects always go over budget, come in late and never deliver the promised benefits. Once the system is in and the various hacks and bodges to make it work are done the system is neglected for 10 or 15 years and falls so far behind some consultant will come along and propose a complete new modern system with all bells and whistles which will deliver numerous benefits. Not.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Evolution not Revolution.

      >” some consultant will come along and propose a complete new modern system with all bells and whistles which will deliver numerous benefits. Not.”

      The problem with “one step at a time” is there is little opportunity for political ego boosts - ie. There is no big announcement and photo opportunity of politician with new shiny.

      Likewise the problem with complete new systems is that politicians get scared of the price tag and so cut corners in what are ultimately futile attempts to reduce costs… We have seen this level of political stupidity with both HS1 and in spades with HS2. ( With HS2 it was obvious, from the experience of HS1 and a reading of the HS2 Ltd report on the proposed route and it not satisfying many of the governments mandatory requirements, that the £9bn figure wasn’t realistic. Now we are likely to be paying £100+ bn for the delivery of a still compromised solution, whereas accepting a more realistic £50bn figure could have enabled both a better route and better design with fewer “surprises” with cost implications…

      Those with long memories will remember the UK government dilly dally’d over the original airwave network and focused much on cost cutting rather than on getting the solution fit for purpose.

      So that “not” isn’t necessarily the fault of the external consultants and delivery partners…

    2. LateAgain

      Re: Evolution not Revolution.

      It's the "outsource" culture.

      Every****y project is put out to bid. Any actual surviving IT team is considered untrusted.

      And we all know how a new supplier scraps the "legacy" kit that they refuse to support.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Semaphore + CCTV network.


  11. Tron Silver badge

    Obvious solution.

    Third world countries use mobile phones or off-the-shelf PMR - whatever works locally. We should follow their lead, as we are now one too.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Get it right gov

    Before airwave and tetra was the analogue systems,that each service ran.

    It worked. Sure it wasnt the all singing and dancing that we have now. And it was really easy to listen in to, and that needed improving really.

    But. In the early days of tetra, the network got overloaded in London, and some fell back to vehicle sets in order to communicate.

    What I would expect from The Emergency Network is a system that can use both existing cell towers and repeaters for resilience.

    Already Icom have their Satellite communications handsets, and another LTE and PMR set.

    Motorola appear to have bugged out if news reports are right.

    It would seem prudent that there is some form of backup built into our ESN, which seems to have escaped the team (one hopes it IS a group), that designed the expensive failed bid.

    There is one heck of a great opportunity to design a world leading system that could be sold and bring income to this country.

  13. Tubz Silver badge

    Motorola walked away from £400m when faced with an anti-competitive probe, obviously milked as much as possible from the £11B .. follow the money, any ex-snivel service or ex-government staff now working for Motorola involved in the deal ?

  14. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    5G though?

    Isn't this what 5G is supposed to have brought us? Virtual Private Mobile Networks over existing infrastructure? The government could pay towards a proper 5G infrastructure (or pay towards it) to make sure 5G was literally everywhere, and then put the ESN on top of that. It would be able to attract private investment because it would improve existing mobile networks. The trouble with these things is that they start off as large projects when in reality what needs to be designed is a small project that's scalable large.

    1. Adam JC

      Re: 5G though?

      Virtual Private Mobile Networks over existing infrastructure has been around for donkeys years in the form of private APN's. Hell, I can spin up a bunch of SIM cards on a private APN in about 10 minutes flat using my shiny control panel and some ready-to-activate SIM's.

      Extensive 5G coverage is nowhere near as straightforward as 4G due to the different bands used in 5G (700MHz & 3.4GHz to 3.6GHz), which is why Tetra runs on 410 to 430 MHz. (Low bandwidth, but great for coverage). Finding a happy medium on a countrywide scale can be tricky, but 5G is certainly not the answer outside of city centres (And even then, anyone who's tried to use 5G in a city centre will tell you, it's still a joke..)

      1. Commswonk

        Re: 5G though?

        which is why Tetra runs on 410 to 430 MHz

        Not quite; it actually runs on 380 - 400 MHz; 410 - 430 MHz was used by the "non - emergency" variant, i.e. Dolphin, which IIRC is now long - defunct.

        Being even more pedantic, when I retired the frequencies used were actually 380 - 385 & 390 - 395 MHz with the unused 5 MHz blocks held in reserve.

        There is nothing specific about the frequencies used that results in "low bandwidth" for data; the TETRA specification is such that it simply doesn't allow data to be sent fast enough for user requirements, whether they are real or perceived.

      2. Cynical user

        Re: 5G though?

        5G coverage on 700Mhz is no more difficult to rollout than 4G on 800Mhz - which ESN is heavily reliant on. The same antennas, radioheads & feeder lines are used - just different radio modules.

  15. Johan-Kristian Wold 1

    Clueless specs

    The problems with a lot of these public contracts, is that the government agency doing the shopping don't really have a clue on what they really want, so a lot of the specifications are vague at best, and in a lot of cases the necessary framework is mostly missing.

    The supplier end up doing an insane amount of work that's billed by the hour on very lucrative rates - outside of the contract.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Waste of xxxxxxx money

    You know, when I read stories like this about how government spend my taxes I really resent paying them ... I work bloody hard for my money and they piss it away !!!!!!!!!!

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